One of the most challenging things to write about is religion. This is because religion – an institution created by man – has been so abused by those who created it in the first place. In many cases, one is either applauded or chastised for a position one takes on religion, depending on the “religious beliefs” of the person who is reacting. If you dare remind some Muslims that a verse as violent as this, “And when the sacred months are passed, kill those who join other gods with Allah wherever ye shall find them; and seize them, besiege them, and lay wait for them with every kind of ambush…” (Quran 9:5), exists in the Holy Quran, the reply you will get will either be, “You have to look at the context Allah reveals that verse” or you are told not to interpret the Quran literarily. Most interpreters of the good Book find no arguments in it for the murder of innocents. But it would be naive to ignore in Islam a deep thread of intolerance toward unbelievers.
The use of religion for extreme repression, and even terror, is not restricted to Islam. For most of its history, Christianity has had a worse record. From the Crusades to the Inquisition to the bloody religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, Europe saw far more blood spilled for religion’s sake than the Muslim world did. Many Christians will deny that Jesus the Christ made a statement such as this: “I have brought you not peace but sword” in the New Testament (Matthew 10:34).
Questions that I often ask myself are: Why is religion so misunderstood by those who should even know better? Why do some people do negative things in the name of religion?
At this point let me bring in a quote from a foremost Western Philosopher, Bertrand Russell who declared that, “Religion is based…mainly upon fear…fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand…. My own view on religion is that of Lucretius. I regard it as a disease born of fear and as a source of untold misery to the human race.” The truth is that fear often makes people turn to “something” other than themselves in the peak of disaster or calamity, which they consider “bigger” than them. They look for freedom, often without responsibility. They hope, but not in faith. They believe, but with no faith. This appears to be the case with our so-called religious people in Nigeria.
Instead of worship, what we have is warship. The leader is seen as a reincarnation of “God” or something. The leader tells the followers what to do and they accept without question(s). Only the leader’s interpretation(s) of the Holy Books are acceptable. The rivalry between Sheikh Gumi and Sheikh el-Zakzaky, both preaching Islam but of different traditions, with the former being Sunni and the latter being Shiite, is legendary. Both men’s supporters are reported to have clashed on several occasions in Kaduna.
One will wonder why anyone will want to fight for God. If God is so big or massive, who are His creatures to fight for Him? I imagine a situation where a school bully beats up my four-year old cousin, who then comes home to report, in order for me to come to his aid. This is normal because my cousin is likely not to be powerful enough to deal with the bully. Let us look at another case where I was slapped by a bus conductor at the commercial motor park only for me to get home to “report” to my four-year old boy to come fight for me. That sounds absurd isn’t it? This is the case with anyone “fighting” for God.
To show that most of us, especially in Nigeria, appear to now be more Catholic than the Pope, we will do anything in our power to “fight” for God. Recently, the Kaduna State government introduced what it calls ‘A Bill For A Law To Substitute The Kaduna State Religious Preaching Law, 1984’ popularly known as the Preaching Bill. In as much as bodies representing Islam and Christianity have condemned the bill, professional politicians hiding under the large cover of religion, in their attempt to score a point set up an “us-versus-them” argument. Some of them went as far as saying that el-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna would die if he did not withdraw the bill. The passion with which these people speak would possibly make one think that they love their religion that much. Their supporters, forming a congregation, believe them so long as it is coming from their ‘father in the Lord”. They take whatever they say as gospel, no matter how false these might be. The displays of some of these “politicians hearing from God” do not deter their members at all. These ones capitalise on the fears of the people. They mirror their own fears in the minds of the people as “God’s anointed.” My own Bible tells me to “…believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1), but not our religious people who have been infected by the disease of religion!
Still on the controversial bill, let us be quick to add that I am no fan of the Kaduna governor as some might have speculated. To regulate “preaching” is highly needed if we are not to produce “outlaws” like Terry Jones. Many may probably not remember him as the man who, in 2010, threatened to burn over 2000 copies of the Muslim Holy Book, the Quran on the ninth anniversary of 9/11 by calling Islam “a religion of the devil,” The pastor (if not so-called) of the Dove World Outreach Center, Florida, a church with less than 50 members, invited Christians to his Church on the said date to burn the Muslim holy book. Though, he would later cancel the planned event, his congregation did burn the Muslim holy book in March 2011 and in 2012, while his Church promoted an anti-Muslim film. All three incidents sparked violence in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Let us be clear at about some points now. Mr Jones, on his own, did not physically attack anyone. He promoted his ideas, his religious beliefs (as he knows it) under existing laws. His constitutionally protected freedom of worship is guaranteed to express himself (burning of the Quran), within his Church and congregation. Again, at the time, no one could arrest him, other than “appeal’ to him to shelve his planned burning of the Quran since US does not regulate religious expression. The effect of this rascally unregulated behaviour, transcended the US border and reached far away Afghanistan!
To those who said, about regulating or minimising the effect of a dis-ease, “We do not have a problem, regulate your own people” only proves to me how soon something that is supposed to be a symptom has become an epidemic. It’s time to put a check on this rampaging dis-ease in our land!
Olalekan Waheed Adigun is a political risk analyst and independent political strategist. He can be reached via email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @adgorwell.